State Settles COVID-19 Death Of Veteran For $300,000
I know that it’s difficult to believe that anyone won a lawsuit on the basis of COVID-19, but even as states were moving to protect health care providers from torts related to the pandemic, they still placed expectations on these clinics to provide the proper care and comply with CDC recommendations. In the case that settled for $300,000, the State of New Mexico had determined that the facility presented an “immediate risk of harm” to its patients. In other words, they were not making a good faith effort to comply with the prevailing recommendations of the CDC to prevent COVID infection. The veteran fell ill with the disease and the family was able to point to the Department of Health survey that cited the facility for “immediate jeopardy” and win the claim on that basis.
“Immediate jeopardy” in the context of Department of Health inspections means that the facility represents a current risk of death to every patient within the facility due to a lack of compliance with standard regulations or a lack of compliance with COVID-19 recommendations. Among the violations cited by the Department of Health, the facility allowed a COVID-positive patient to remain in the workplace and provide care to those who were not COVID-positive. This included allowing a COVID-positive employee to hand out food to residents.
The Department of Health did not issue a comment on the settlement as there is another wrongful death lawsuit working its way through the courts. However, they have earmarked $60 million to provide a new facility for veterans in the area.
Analyzing the allegations
There’s no way to prove that a single individual died due to the specific actions of a single COVID-positive employee. However, the facility allowed its standards to lapse so completely that it became more likely than not that the shoddy and substandard care given to patients resulted in numerous preventable deaths. Thus far, only two lawsuits have been filed, but COVID spread like wildfire through facilities that did not enact useful infection-control measures. Some facilities lost hundreds of residents and nursing homes remain the most notable contributor of deaths among the U.S. population.
That being said, filing lawsuits against nursing homes remains challenging. Nursing homes can claim COVID immunity from personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits which forces the plaintiff to prove that the facility did not make a “good faith effort” to abide by the prevailing recommendations issued by the CDC. By the time you’re allowing COVID-positive staffers to distribute food to non-COVID-positive patients, you’ve shown you have no commitment to the wellbeing of your patients or alternatively, are misguided on the threat the disease poses. In either case, the facility is liable for failing to comply with general regulations that are always present in the industry and CDC regulations that were put into place to manage the pandemic.
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